Amnesty International Report 2011 - The State of the World's Human Rights

Head of state
Mary McAleese
Head of government
Brian Cowen
Death penalty
abolitionist for all crimes
4.6 million
Life expectancy
80.3 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f)
6/6 per 1,000

Child protection standards were inadequate in both law and practice. Prison conditions fell below required standards. There was a shortfall in mental health services.


The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture visited Ireland at the beginning of the year, focusing on prison conditions and the care afforded to patients in psychiatric institutions. The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings was ratified in July.

Children’s rights

The government failed to implement a number of commitments it made in 2009 following the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. This included a failure to introduce draft legislation to give child protection guidelines a statutory basis.

In February, the all-party Oireachtas (parliament) Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children proposed a new constitutional provision on children’s rights. However, the government did not schedule the required referendum in 2010 as promised.

There were serious concerns about the lack of adequate investigation and transparent reporting by the Health Service Executive on deaths of children in state child protection services. In March, the government established an Independent Child Death Review Group to review the Executive’s investigations into the deaths of children in care.

Discrimination – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

The Civil Partnership Act 2010 was passed in July, providing for the registration of civil partnerships, including by same-sex couples, to come into force in 2011. However, it fell short of providing an equal right of same-sex couples to civil marriage, and inequality in the legal situation of children of same-sex couples also remained unresolved.

Following the withdrawal of its appeal in the case of Foy v. An t-Ard Chláraitheoir & Ors in June, the government promised to introduce legislation recognizing the gender identity of transgendered people.

Prison conditions

Prison conditions did not meet required standards. An October report by the Inspector of Prisons found serious overcrowding in prisons and described violence between prisoners in Mountjoy Prison as endemic. The report also described the practice of “slopping out”, where prisoners urinate and defecate into a small pot in their cell, in Mountjoy, Cork and Limerick prisons as “inhumane and degrading”.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

A report published by the Free Legal Advice Centres in February criticized the living conditions of asylum-seekers under the government’s “direct provision and dispersal system”, which places individuals in various accommodation centres around the country where they are expected to stay while awaiting a determination on their status. The report found that the system “does not provide an environment conducive to the enjoyment or fulfillment of the most basic human rights, including the rights to health, food, housing and family life”.

In light of the concerns about asylum determination procedures in Greece, the High Court decided to refer to the Court of Justice of the European Union to determine whether Ireland should be required to take responsibility for processing the asylum claims of those who passed through Greece. At the end of the year, transfers to Greece under the Dublin II Regulation were effectively suspended.

Right to health – mental health

In July, the annual report of the Inspector of Mental Health Services highlighted poor conditions in a number of in-patient centres, describing some as “entirely unacceptable and inhumane”. It pointed out that significant staffing cuts were affecting progressive community mental health services, “causing reversion to a more custodial form of mental health service”.

Women’s rights

In December, in A, B, and C v. Ireland, the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 8 of the convention in the case of one of the three applicants, C, because she had no effective or accessible procedure to establish her constitutional right to a lawful abortion where her life was at risk.

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